Are the inbetween spaces of cafes, bars and foyers – those spaces between ‘street to seat’ - in our theatres, museums, Burgh Halls, churches, now the places that promote convivial exchanges, the social glue that binds us? Whilst a nice to have, do these spaces contribute to our happiness and wellbeing and how do we convince clients of the value of investing in them?
The architecture frames the interactions taking place – acting as the psychological airlock between the outside and the performance space. They have a three part role, firstly organising the intended and unintended interactions between people, supporting these interactions through the tactility and care taken in the detail of the setting and finally, presenting these interactions to the outside world by making them visible on the exterior of the building.
As an example the proposed bay windows to the foyer of the Scottish Opera, Theatre Royal create intimate settings for small groups, framed by the surface and lighting detail and all made visible from the street by the articulation of the façade.
At the core of the concern for these spaces is a preoccupation with considering - and then creating - the right atmosphere. The range of atmospheres extending from feeling like being at home in our Maggie’s Centres, to being reflective in our cloister settings, with a middle ground of theatricality in our cultural venues, suggests we need to spend considerable time focusing on how we can support and engender these special settings. Critically, we value them as much as all the other spaces that form part of the brief.
Discussion suggested that part of our toolkit in the creation of these atmospheric settings might perversely be served by a deliberate flaw. This flaw could be a space conceived as smaller than required, to stimulate close encounters or could be consciously intended to elicit a reaction. Other thoughts explored the role of drinking as a social lubricant, the need for places to retreat from the throng, and whether there was any evidence to suggest that social media interaction has led to an increased desire for these convivial spaces.
In conclusion a benefit to the architect of making convivial space was posited in the words of Mark Twain,
"The best way to cheer yourself up is to cheer someone else up"